The six Labour MPs who voted against the Benn amendment

The amendment was seen off by 314-312, so the six votes from the Opposition benches made all the difference.

In the end, Hilary Benn’s amendment was seen off by a narrow margin – 314 to 312. In that mix were six Labour MPs who voted against it:

  • Kevin Barron
  • Ronnie Campbell
  • Caroline Flint
  • Kate Hoey
  • John Mann

 

  • Graham Stringer

WATCH: Flint – “If it’s a choice between an improved deal and no deal I think we should seriously consider supporting an improved deal”

She says that many Labour MPs share her concern about respecting the referendum result.

Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: May threatens to drive everyone over a cliff, then offers a concession

The Prime Minister lives to fight another day, and with a bit of help from Labour she could still get her deal through.

The House met in a very odd mood, a compound of excitement, mistrust, boredom and fear. At the start of today’s statement MPs felt themselves being driven down a road most of them do not like, towards (as they think) a cliff edge which will be reached on 29th March, by a Prime Minister who divulges information only on a need to know basis.

“I believe that if we have to we will ultimately make a success of No Deal,” Theresa May said, and by doing so provoked loud protests on the Labour benches, and silent apprehension on her own.

She observed that “members across the House are genuinely worried that time is running out”.

“Yes,” someone shouted.

The passengers are getting mutinous. They find themselves bowling along with a driver who denies that a cliff edge is coming up. Oliver Letwin and Yvette Cooper have therefore devised a plan for them to wrest control of the steering wheel from May.

The Prime Minister is not quite so impervious to danger as she looks. She saw that the only way to defuse this rebellion was to make a concession.

So she said that if the House voted against her revised deal, and against leaving on 29th March, the Government will on 14th March “bring forward a motion on whether Parliament wants to seek a short limited extension to Article 50”.

But she went on to say that this extension could produce “a much sharper cliff edge” in a few months’ time, and she was not, herself, in favour of making it.

The passengers doubted whether they could trust a word she said.

“They are commitments I am making as Prime Minister and I will stand by them,” May told them, producing cries of incredulity.

“My aim is to bring the country back together,” she added, provoking laughter.

She ended by accusing Jeremy Corbyn of going back on his promise to respect the referendum result. For Corbyn has announced, if not the U-turn which most of the passengers really want, at least the second referendum which they hope will give them the sanction to do a U-turn, provided they frame the choice in such a way as to produce the required answer.

Corbyn began by referring, without attribution, to Marx’s great observation, at the start of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, that historical events and people occur twice, first as tragedy, then as farce.

The Leader of the Opposition suggested May had now repeated herself so often she had become “grotesquely reckless”. He is not as good a writer as Marx.

Nor, as we have seen, was May repeating herself. She was saying something new. Corbyn, however, is always very reluctant to admit that anything has changed.

“Labour, Mr Speaker, has a credible plan,” he said, and now it was his turn to provoke incredulous laughter on the benches facing him, and silent apprehension on his own.

May spent two hours and nine minutes at the Despatch Box. Every MP who wanted to ask a question was able to do so. The Speaker is good at giving the House the chance to hold ministers to account.

But not much further light was cast on anything. Quite a few Conservative MPs said they will vote for the PM’s deal. The Tory tribe does not, generally speaking, wish to be seen to betray Brexit.

Caroline Flint (Labour, Don Valley) observed that there are people on both the Right and the Left for whom “no deal will ever be good enough”.

She added that these opponents of May’s deal need to be prepared to compromise. “I absolutely agree,” the Prime Minister replied. Gareth Snell (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central) indicated that he too will vote for her deal.

She lives to fight another day. It is still possible that with a bit of help from Labour MPs, horrified that their leader has sold the pass on a second referendum, and from Conservative MPs who fear the cost of driving over the cliff, she will get a compromise.

Which Labour MPs defied their party on key amendments – including latest abstention news

The role of these MPs in pro-Leave seats abstaining on or voting against the Cooper amendment in defiance of the whip was crucial.

January 30 8.30am Mike Blanchard’s daily e-mail reports this morning the following Labour abstentions on the Cooper amendment:

  • Tracy Brabin
  • Judith Cummins
  • Gloria De Piero
  • Yvonne Fovargue
  • Mike Kane
  • Emma Lewell-Buck
  • Jim McMahon
  • Melanie Onn
  • Ruth Smeeth
  • John Spellar
  • Stephen Twigg.

Now one must be very careful with absentions, since one can’t tell whether an MP who has abstained did so deliberately or, say, was ill (as is Paul Flynn, who can be added to the list above.  Still, the names are suggestive enough to report.

21.15 Here’s the list of Labour MPs who voted for the Brady amendment.  All of them voted against the Cooper amendment.

  • Ian Austin
  • Sir Kevin Barron
  • Jim Fitzpatrick
  • Roger Godsiff
  • Kate Hoey
  • John Mann
  • Graham Stringer.

21.00: Elsewhere on this site, Mark Wallace is listing Conservative MPs who voted against the whip on important amendments.  Here is a list of 14 Labour MPs who defied their own on the Cooper amendment.

  • Iain Austin.
  • Sir Kevin Barron.
  • Ronnie Campbell.
  • Rosie Cooper.
  • Jim Fitzpatrick.
  • Caroline Flint.
  • Roger Godsiff.
  • Stephen Hepburn.
  • Kate Hoey.
  • John Mann.
  • Denis Skinner.
  • Laura Smith.
  • Gareth Snell.
  • Graham Stringer.

With the exception of Fitzpatrick and Hoey, all represent midlands and northern seats.  Most of these are in Leave-voting heartlands, though Godsiff’s Birmingham Hall Green seat plumped for Remain in 2016.

Godsiff is also on record recently as favoring a second referendum.  But the moral of this particular story is that Jeremy Corbyn should – as he is well aware – handle pressure for another poll with extreme caution.

Support for one among London Labour may catch the eye and command media coverage.  None the less, there’s a lot of resistance to a second referendum on his backbenches – and front bench too.

20.45: Earlier today, we wrote that “if the Cooper amendment falls and the Brady amendment passes, a signal will be sent to the EU that the Commons wants substantial changes to the backstop, and that the Government has re-established a degree of control over Brexit policy, at least for the moment”.

And so it has proved.  The amendment passed by 317 to 301. That’s impressive Tory discipline again.  And it will be worth looking out for the names of Labour MPs who abstained.

All in all, May’s gamble has paid off in whipping for the Brady amendment.  She can now seek to go to Brussels armed with a Commons vote for something, and perhaps with the new Malthouse Plan that is winning support across her Party.

But a happy morning will be followed by a problematic tomorrow.  The EU will be quickly out of its traps to rubbish Malthouse, Brady – and May.  As the psalm doesn’t put it: “joy may last through the night, but weeping comes with the morning”.

20.30: The Spelman amendment passes by 318 – 310.  It’s declaratory only – but the division lists will tell us which Conservative MPs have signalled clearly that they ultimately prefer No Brexit to No Deal.

20.15: The Cooper amendment fell by 321 votes to 298 – a majority of 23. We don’t have the division figures yet, but it’s clear that the role of Labour MPs was crucial.

For this result to have happened, a sufficient number of Labour MPs in pro-Brexit seats, worried that backing the amendment would be seen as a “betrayal of the referendum”, must have either voted with the Government or abstained.

The amendment would have allowed for a Bill to seek the extension of Brexit – and, rightly or wrongly, extension will be read by many as a preparation for revocation.

Conservative discipline looks – for once? – to have held up well.  Not a bad evening for Theresa May so far.  If the Brady amendment succeeds, it will become a good one.